Pennsylvania Pleads the Fourth

Incorrect wine ranking difficult to undo

By Karl Klooster

A strange thing happened not long ago when I was on the Internet. For decades now, using Google to search for “largest wine-producing states in the U.S.” has sourced several key sites showing Oregon in fourth place after California, Washington and New York. Even though Oregon is by far the smallest of the four, its annual production is more than double that of the fifth-place state, which is nearly double that of sixth place.

But on this occasion, when my purpose was to verify the latest quantities for inclusion in my book on the history of the Oregon wine industry, Pennsylvania appeared in fourth place at 12,405,181 gallons, with Oregon in fifth at 11,822,972. This was, at first, surprising, then unsettling, then irritating, since I knew that the Pennsylvania wine industry’s annual production had never exceeded the low 2-million gallon range.

In fact, prominently posted on their own industry website ( is the statement “More than 2M gallons of wine produced per year,” accompanied by another statement, “Ranked 5th in the nation for wine production.” Pennsylvania can argue with Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and several other states over that claim, and the consequent rankings. When you get down to fractions of a percentage of total market share, a few thousand gallons here or there can make all the difference.

But no such claim can be made about fourth place. So, my single objective was to see what could be done to correct the erroneous information that otherwise would lead unknowing Internet viewers to believe Pennsylvania, not Oregon, was the nation’s fourth-largest wine producer. Trying to do that proved far more difficult than I ever imagined.

You can’t just go on the Internet and ask, ‘Who do you contact about getting inaccurate information changed?” In the first place, it is automatically assumed that if someone poses such a question, it’s because the information they want corrected is specifically about themselves. More broadly, it comes down to the reality that “anyone can post anything on the Internet at any time.”

If such a posting contains claims potentially libelous, the person or entity under attack can take legal action. If the information is merely incorrect or misleading, the effective remedies remain limited. If the potential negative effect is significant enough, which the Oregon wine industry might view this inaccurate information to be, they would have to refute the claim. In other words, commit some money to the effort.

Short of that, I decided to see what might arise from reaching out to the Pennsylvania wine industry and inquire whether or not anyone there with statewide knowledge even knew about the situation. If so, why? If not, were they willing or able to correct it? Of course, before one can pose such questions, it is necessary to contact someone.

First, I tried calling the Pennsylvania Winery Association in Harrisburg. The phone number listed had been disconnected. Next, I called the State Liquor Control Board, also headquartered in Harrisburg. The agent I reached said the liquor control board had no authority over such matters and suggested I contact an industry representative.

During our discussion, the agent inquired about Oregon’s situation in regard to the spotted lanternfly. When I said I wasn’t aware of this threat, he advised me that the inch-long insect immigrated to the East Coast from Asia several years ago. It has since infested vines across Pennsylvania, as well as adjacent states, causing extensive leaf damage and eventual plant die-back. No effective deterrent has yet been found.

Making a mental note to ask about the dreaded fly with OHSU Extension, I returned to the winery association’s website where the name Mario Mazza appeared bearing the title “Chairman, PA Wine Marketing & Research Board.” This appeared under a photo of Mazza, who is apparently either the owner of or a prominent member of the family that owns Mazza Wines. There were a few other names on the site, but Mazza appeared to be my best bet, so I looked up the winery number and called.

The person who answered said Mario was preoccupied with post-harvest activities and recommended that I e-mail him. I thanked her, told her who I was, left my number, and asked her to relay the message. Then I prepared an e-mail explaining the particulars of the inaccurate Internet stats in a businesslike but diplomatic manner and requested a reply as soon as possible. I also left a voice message with the owner of SWELL MEDIA, the Philadelphia P.R. firm listed on the association’s website.

After that, it seemed logical to contact WineAmerica, The National Association of American Wineries in Washington, D.C., to ascertain their position. I spoke with a member representative who advised me that, as an advocacy group, it wasn’t part of their purview to investigate or correct an information error that didn’t appear on their own website. She also told me the Pennsylvania Wineries Association currently was undergoing some internal changes that might affect their ability to respond.

I proceeded to examine the websites behind the primary website names on which the state production statistics were posted — World Population Review, WIKIPEDIA, World Atlas — to see how each of them might best be contacted to report the error. The upshot here is that would appear to be the central reference point for statistical data about U.S. states.

Under World Population Review’s U.S. state rankings category, Pennsylvania is listed in fourth place, with the 12.4 million gallon figure and a 1.536% share of total U.S. wine production, as opposed to Oregon in fifth place with 11.8 million gallons and a 1.466% share. The same figures appear on the WIKIPEDIA and World Atlas websites.

World Population Review refers all queries to According to the site, Shane Fulmer founded the organization in 2015. I dutifully passed along this information in an e-mail to him and respectfully requested a reply in regard to any action that might be taken. That e-mail was sent Oct. 29, 2021. To date, no response has been received from Shane or any of his associates.

In my missive to him, I cited as the single most authoritative source of nationwide industry information. Their top rankings, although gallonage figures may not always be for the most recent year, come from verifiable sources and are correct. Given their small fractions of a percent of the national total, and in the absence of statewide winery reports, accurate gallonage figures from smaller states are more difficult to determine, except within the context of historically substantiated annual ranges.

In case you hadn’t already guessed, I received no reply of any kind about any of the above-mentioned queries. I have only personal experience to draw the conclusion that this means making a good-faith effort is an effort in futility. If any reader out there has a better answer, please let me know.

But, if you are one of those who already realizes you can’t always believe what you read on the Internet, this story is further proof. If you’re not, I hope this example leads you not to blindly trust everything posted online. At the very least, it demonstrates there is no straightforward way to try and right the Internet’s wrongs. Despite countless attributes, it still remains the modern-day equivalent of the Wild West. So, if you really want or need to know something for certain, do what media reporters do. Verify!

New developments may yet arise. So, although I don’t encourage anyone to hold their breath, stay tuned.

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